October 1, 2023

Head injury is one of the severe injuries caused when something hits the head, causing damage to the brain tissue. The damage caused by the traumatic brain injury (TBI) can be treated but tends to leave the patient with a certain disability or impairment. The extent of this impairment depends on the damage caused. Some problems caused by the TBI can be classified into different categories: 

  • Cognitive disability: Issues related to attention, communication, memory, problem-solving, reasoning, etc.
  • Physical disability: Lack of coordination in hands and legs, fatigue, impaired vision, reduced hearing, sleep issues, etc.
  • Emotional disability: Depression, loss of control over anger, anxiety, etc.

Why should people with TBI be protected in the workplace?

Injury to the different parts of the brain can affect the abilities of the TBI victim. With rehabilitation and other therapies, survivors can overcome their disabilities and even strengthen their other functioning to lead better everyday lives. The disability or impairment can cause difficulty in working, but the workplace, their colleagues, and the employer should consider the injury and cooperate with them. 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and TBI

A person recovering from TBI needs to make many adjustments in their life. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides protection to all individual employees having disabilities. In case of brain injury, even with the disability, if the individual can qualify for a particular job, ADA prohibits the employer from treating the individual differently from other employees. ADA also suggests they make certain accommodations for the individual if required. 

Employer obligations to employees with TBI 

The employer needs to consider the condition of the individual recovered from the TBI. The TBI survivor may face some limitations, but if he/she is willing to get back to the job, the employer needs to give them a chance. The employer should address certain things regarding the patient recovered from TBI like:

  • What kind of disabilities the individual is facing and how this will affect their performance towards the job?
  • Making any accommodations at the workplace can help to eliminate or reduce these limitations.
  • Can the TBI survivor be allotted a role or job that he/she can do efficiently even with certain limitations or disabilities? 

Employee rights under the ADA 

The ADA provides rights to the employees having certain disabilities but having the necessary qualification to perform the said task. The employer or the organization can provide reasonable accommodations to the individual recovered from TBI like:

  • Allot a different role that they can manage better even with their limitations
  • Allowing to work for shorter duration or flexible schedules
  • Allowing to take necessary breaks during work
  • Assigning a lesser workload
  • Making the working area more accessible, etc. 

These activities will encourage the person who recovered from TBI to perform better and gain their confidence back. 

What are the employees’ responsibilities when they have a disability, including TBI?

When the employee recovered from TBI returns to his/her job or when the applicant with the brain injury accepts a position, he/she can ask for reasonable accommodations that will help them perform best to their abilities. The employee should work with a vocational rehabilitation counselor to determine and inform the effects caused by the brain injury. This is important as many changes occur due to the injury that can affect the individual’s functioning. 

How can employers comply with these laws and protect themselves from liability?

As per the ADA recommendations, the organization or the employer can comply with these laws and provide accommodation to the individual recovering from TBI. This will help them in protecting themselves from liabilities. The accommodations that the employer can provide to the employee with a disability include:

  • Physical limitations: Installing ramps, lever-style door handles, disabled parking space, etc.
  • Visual problems: Enhance natural lighting, providing glare-resistant screens, larger fonts, etc.
  • Memory or concentration issues: Providing notes, calendars, checklists, electronic organizers, private office to improve concentration, etc. 

Who can help if you have questions or concerns about your rights as an individual with TBI?

The organization may have an employee assistance program (EAP) for understanding and addressing the needs of the employees having a disability and returning to work. The disability management team helps in connecting all the individuals and leads to improved workforce health. The ADA helps by providing legal remedies to the individual. If the employee is not given their rights, they can file a complaint.

Patients undergoing treatment for TBI need time to heal and get back to their routine life. After the recovery, the TBI survivor may experience certain difficulties doing their regular functions as efficiently as before. The individual may have some after-effects even after recovery, such as headache, weakness, some impairment, etc. Considering these issues, the person can get back to work and their everyday life. Knowing the workplace rights after the brain injury can help in various ways.